I would like to firmly put on record my deepest thanks and support to the police and special operations who continue to put their lives at risk to help keep us and our country safe. It is important that when people are undercover that we make them as safe as possible, and that also means ensuring that they are protected in law with relevant safeguards.
Last week I informed my constituents that I had voted against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill at Second Reading. I did this because I could not in good conscience abstain on something which, in my view, needed to have much stronger safeguards on the face of the Bill.
Earlier this week, I backed several amendments that sought to enshrine those protections into the Bill. However, these amendments were not supported by the Government so they failed to pass. I strongly believe that when this Bill goes to the House of Lords they will be disappointed on all sides of the House that we did not pass to them a better bill.
I informed the Labour Party Whips that – for the Committee and remaining stages – I would be breaking the whip and voting against the Bill once again.
The Government has, again, asked us to rely on the Human Rights Act for a lot of checks and balances.
However, we also know that this Government does not respect the Human Rights Act – often referring to it frustratingly as ‘red tape’.
We must protect our democracy and civil liberties by maintaining strong checks and balances. This flawed Bill will effectively allow security services, police and others to authorise serious prior criminal activity. As in nothing is off-limits.
Giving yet more unchecked powers away, without strong accountability or oversight, is unacceptable and represents a very worrying trend with this Government.
I also find it deeply worrying that, as organisations such as Reprieve have pointed out, the UK Bill places no express limits on the types of crimes which can be authorised. However, the Canadian Bill has six relevant and vital safeguards which the Labour Party would like on the face of the Bill.
The idea that the Human Rights Act alone offers the necessary protection, under a Conservative Government which has repeatedly sought to undermine it and which in 2019 pledged to ‘update it’, means that we would have to trust this Government not to change the human rights act which they have sought to change.
For all these reasons and more, I could not bring myself to abstain on this Bill – I have little choice but to vote against it. I hope that once it is in the Lords that further amendments will be made before it comes back to the House of Commons.